Waking dream technique

By Marc-Alain DESCHAMPS, University of Paris V

A waking dream is a level of consciousness, an original imaginative creation and a method of analysis and psychotherapy - all at the same time. The level of consciousness lies midway between a day dream and a night dream. Everyone indulges in dreams through the day with varying levels of frequency and for varying length of time. We call them rambling thoughts. The moment we are calm and have nothing else to do or when we are bored, we begin to daydream. All children daydream at school; most commonly as compensatory dreams. When we are confronted with failure, boredom or a rebuff, we contrast it with a huge success. However, we are not asleep when we do this. Instead, we are fully in charge of our own script, change or modify it as we want and stop when we wish.

In a dream state when asleep, it is the opposite. The images appear before me and proceed of their own will despite me. I cannot change, modify or interrupt them. I am the victim of my unconscious and also my illusion because I believe I am in reality and not in my dream.A waking dream starts as a day dream and very quickly develops into a dream. Comfortably lying down on a couch, the patient narrates his dream to me while I sit beside him noting it down. Soon, following a good apprenticeship, it becomes a real dream, for we don’t know what is going to appear, neither can we change images nor stop the dream by exercising our will.

This narrative constitutes a waking dream scenario which over weeks and months, develops into a series of linked scenarios to finally become a work that is original, comparable to a novel, a poem or a series of paintings. The patient has become creative.

Moreover, with my help, he has understood his problems which he has just explored and he is finally able to free himself of his traumas, complexes, fantasies, negative processes, unconscious repetitions…Waking dream analysis is therefore, shorter, more active and more universal than an ordinary psychoanalysis. It is also richer because images are already present, before words and language come in. In this technique, one has access to the period before the age of three in what is called as the deeply unconscious archaic world.